Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Nepal: Expect the Unexpected

Ten weeks in Nepal has come to an end. I now find myself trying to boil down all of my experiences into a few coherent thoughts to share with you. This seems to be a daunting task.

My first blog post from Nepal described many of the things I experienced upon arriving in Nepal that I had not expected. I quickly learned to expect the unexpected and appreciate these unique experiences (the good, the bad and the ugly) instead of being caught off guard.  

And so if I pick up where I left off from "Crossing Cultures", I did not expect to experience the level of hospitality I felt from the Nepali people. This country does not run short on hyperbole as evidenced here...

But I truly do not believe I'm exaggerating when I say that the people of Nepal must be the most hospitable in the world.     But I'll let you decide or maybe inspire you to experience it for yourself.

When we arrived in Kathmandu on September 28, we were greeted by a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend. Literally. Shanti and her uncle Ram waited two hours for us at the airport, took us to their home, fed us and gave us a place to sleep for two days and helped us to set up our next arrangements for our time in Nepal. Let's be real. If a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend called me for some suggestions for their friend visiting Vail, I would recommend High Mountain Taxi to pick them up at the airport and take them to a hotel recommended based on their budget and share that Larkburger and Sato's are not to be missed and hang with the locals at Tuesday night Burger night at E-Town. (No, I'm not getting paid to advertise for these fine establishments, but a free meal would be awesome!)  I might suggest a few of my favorite ski runs in the winter or recommend hitting up the free Tuesday night concerts in Vail in the summer. And if you are looking for a church, Pastor Tommy and Friends at Calvary Chapel have got it going on. And then I would say, feel free to call if you need help.  To think that I would actually be your personal tour guide in all these endeavors, probably wouldn't happen.  But that, my friends, is exactly how the Nepali people roll. 

Exhibit "B":  We planned to work with First Love Ministries Children's Home. We arrived at the home in Boudha on relatively short notice and our living arrangements were not quite ready yet. An hour or so later, we were shown our room which we later discovered had been quickly evacuated by Kyipa and her sister Jamu to give us a place to stay for the night. They had moved out all of their clothes, books and other personal items your average teenager might have for room decorations in order to provide us with our own little space.  We, of course, were humbled by this hospitality, but felt, at the least, slightly guilty about displacing the girls and ended up staying at the Nobel Peace Hotel for the rest of our time in Boudha. And here we had the opportunity to experience the hospitality of Sonam, the 18-year-old front desk worker/nursing student who showed us around her town. 

A month later, we arrived in Pokhara just as the 5-day Hindu festival of Tihar was going on. On the biggest festival day of Deepawali, I was invited to experience the festival at the home of one of the servers at a bakery I happened by. Two minutes after being seated, Dim offered to take me to his village on the other side of the lake to share in the Tika (rice dyed red on the forehead) being ceremonially placed on the brother's head by the sister. For various reasons, I was not able to accept his invitation, but I know several travelers who were able to take part in the festivities because of similar invitations. 

And then there is my Nepali wedding experience!  I had tracked down a pastor for a local church who also ran a hotel I walked by everyday. When I told Pastor Narj I was looking for a fellowship to be a part of, he invited me to his church and told me to come to the hotel the next day and that I could get a ride to church.  That Saturday, I joined an amazing missionary couple from Mumbai, Pastor Karl and his wife Susan as well as Pastor Scott from Mountain Life Church in Park City, Utah and a member of his church, Sam. We had a great worship service and then I joined them for lunch back at Pastor Narj's hotel. It was there that I learned about a Nepali wedding reception taking place in a few hours. They invited me to join them. I declined as I had never been a wedding crasher before and didn't think that Nepal would be the place to start that practice. They assured me it would be fine as they didn't even know the bride and groom. An hour later I'm sitting in the spot reserved for the mother of the bride in American weddings. Little did I know that a month later I would be spending two weeks with these beautiful girls who were dancing in celebration of the marriage of one of their own from Sunshine Children's Home.

After singing and dancing to celebrate Kusi's marriage, we were fed and then taken to the home of Arjun and Asha, the amazing couple who have founded The Organization for Himalayan People, of which the Sunshine Children's Home is a part of. Arjun hosted us for tea at his home, while the reception was still going on. He was essentially the father of the bride, hosting a group of people he had never met. I was blown away!  Nepali hospitality at its finest. 

And then there were the amazing girls from Sunshine Children's Home. Upon my return from trekking the Annapurna Circuit, I spent time over the next two weeks getting to know the hearts of these sweet girls. I arrived to the home after school was done, hung out with them as they did their homework, asked them about their lives as I answered their barrage of questions about life in the USA. "Sister! In your country do students wear uniforms to school"? "Sister! In your country is everyone on Facebook"? Sister! In your country do people eat with their hands"?  When I showed them pictures of my family, there was a chorus of "coos" at how cute of a baby Huddy Bobby is and a roar of "oohs" at how pretty my mama is.  Munna taught me about threading (an amazing alternative to plucking eyebrows) and Kamana even offered to "plait" my hair for church one morning.  

I taught them how to play spoons and shared with them during their nightly fellowship time about the Fruit of the Spirit.  Their knowledge of scripture was humbling, and their hospitality right on par with the rest of their country. Shortly after my arrival they would always bring me a warm glass of water. Ashmita, Mahima and Samita proudly taught me the proper technique for eating Nepali style.  Pour a little dal (broth) on a small portion of rice, mix with your fingers, form into a glob that you bring to your mouth on your finger tips and shove off with your thumb.  Repeat until all the bhat (rice) is gone or you have been offered refills on either the dal or bhat. 

Then, as the evening ended two or three of them would escort me to a taxi waiting for me nearby. I cherished my short time with these girls and wish I had found them a month earlier!  Regardless, I've been blessed by the time I did have with Krypa, Prina, Prianka, Munna, Ruth, Kamana, Namunna, Anjali, Sunu, Susmita, Kritika, Mahima, Muscan, Ashmita, Samita, Bheaana, Neeta, Sonjun, Ashmita and Taichug.  

They are bright. (Kritika asked me to tell her about Nelson Mandela...two days before he died. If she was asking I told her she probably knew more about him than I did.  She did.)  They love The Lord.  And they love each other. And, they've told me they are praying for a husband for me.  Taichung said that when I get married, she wants to be invited because she will be praying for this.  You have no idea how this warms my heart. 

And so, I'm challenged. I want to bring Nepali hospitality home with me. If I see a tourist looking lost in the maze that is Beaver Creek or the expanse of the Back Bowls of Vail, I want to stop to help. I want to invite a new friend I meet on the chair lift to my Sunday night dinners.  And if any of you have a friend of a friend of a friend coming to the Vail Valley, I'll pick them up at the airport, well... maybe not the Denver airport but Eagle... no problem.  And if they need a place to stay, mi casa es su casa. (I wonder how that translates in Nepali?)

But if I'm blown away at Nepai hospitality from an earthly perspective, imagine what awaits us from a heavenly perspective. 

After Jesus ate dinner with his friends the night before he was to be handed over to be crucified (also known as the "Last Supper") he told his friends, "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you may be also." (John 14:13)

I have tears in my eyes as I reflect on this verse. Our Heavenly Father is the ultimate example of hospitality. He is preparing for our every need in eternity. I would like to think that I will expect the unexpected when that day comes. But that too is an understatement. For I am reminded that: 

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart of man has imagined, what God has prepared for those that love him."  - 1 Corinthians 2:9

I am humbled and blessed.

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